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What did you think of that? Did it make you smile? Did it perhaps make you feel that museums aren’t boring and old, but places where it’s actually possible to have fun?
If so, then the digital component of the Scotland Creates project has already started to achieve its aims – and we’re only half way through.
Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Creative Scotland, Scotland Creates – A Sense of Place is a partnership project between National Museums Scotland and four other museums: the Dick Institute, Museum nan Eilean, the McLean Museum and Art Gallery and the McManus Art Gallery and Museum.
The project gives young people aged 16-24 years old the chance to work with the museums and other creative partners to curate their own exhibition, culminating in a joint collaborative exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, which opens on 9 May 2014.
As part of the project, I was tasked with coming up with a way of increasing the use of digital media as a tool for engagement and dialogue with young people. With more young adults watching YouTube than TV (in the US, at any rate), using film seemed like a no-brainer. Creating viral videos that would not only celebrate and promote the five museums involved but also help young people see museums in a new, more exciting light seemed like the way to go.
We partnered up with digital agency Sound Delivery and documentary film maker Suzanne Cohen to make it happen. The aim was to equip young volunteers from each museum with the skills to storyboard a 30 second promotional film and to produce all the assets required, from animation and artwork to filmed footage and photographs. These would then be put together by Suzanne, to create the final films in collaboration with the volunteers.
And so began two intensive but exhilarating days of training led by Suzanne, as young people from Edinburgh, the Western Isles, Kilmarnock, Greenock and Dundee converged on the National Museum of Scotland for a comprehensive crash course in film-making.
The participants began by investigating how short films can change people’s perceptions, viewing examples such as this film from the Time to Change campaign, which tackles stereotypes surrounding mental health issues. Next, they interviewed each other on camera to find out what might put young people off visiting museums. The words ‘boring’, ‘old fashioned’ and ‘not for me’ emerged frequently. Their brief for the rest of the two days? To work out how a short film could turn these opinions around.
Over the two days, the volunteers were introduced to a range of film-making techniques that could help them do just that, including vox pops, silent film, stop frame animation and (my personal favourite) bringing a museum object alive using the Morfo app.
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The following short films were made in just a couple of hours. The brief was to prove that visiting a museum can be fun and they all succeeded admirably, if in very different ways:
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Some of our young volunteers have been involved in film-making before, either as part of the Scotland Creates project, at college or as a personal interest, but others had no experience at all. Some were outgoing, others really quite shy, and none of the volunteers from the different museums had met before. Yet by the end of the first day all had emerged from their shells to share ideas and support each other collaboratively, inspired and enthused by the activities they’d taken part in.
The next step of the project sees our volunteers return to their museums and start building their storyboards and creating their assets. I can’t wait to see what they come up with – but even without that final outcome, I can’t help thinking that already the project has been a success, offering young people from across Scotland an opportunity to build confidence and skills, and to see museums and learning in a new light.
We may not replicate the viral success of Gangnam Style or Miley Cyrus, but we’re hoping our volunteers will make films they’ll feel proud to share across their social networks. We’re encouraging them to tweet about their experiences so far – here’s what @NoOneCallsMeSam had to say: “Working with @sounddelivery these past two days has been awesome! Looking forward to creating our museum promo in up and coming weeks.”
Still don’t believe museums are fun? I’ll leave you with these stop frame animation films, made using replica objects. If you don’t think they’re fun, there’s no pleasing you…
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